Ford F-150/F-250: Brake Modifications

The benefits of upgrading your brakes are countless. You are guaranteed to increase your safety, the looks of your Ford F-Series truck, and you will notice a major increase in your truck's stopping performance.

By Scott Deuty - September 3, 2014

This article applies to the Ford F-150 (2004-2014) and the F-250 Super Duty (2005-2014).

Ford did a decent job with the stock brakes on the F-150 and F-250, but there's always room for improvement. Before you decide how to upgrade your brakes, it's important to know Why you're upgrading your them. Do you tow? Are you in an area where there are curves and grades? Do you carry heavy loads? Does your normal driving include a lot of stop and go? Do you race? The answers to these questions should help you decide how much braking power you really need-and how much you'll need to spend to get there.

Stage 1 - Basic Braking upgrades

Though the first upgrades that you do to your brakes might be simple (and cheap) they're the ones that'll have the most noticable effect.

Pads

Hawk Severe Duty Brake Pads

DIY Cost – $70-90 per pair
Professional Cost – $210-250 per pair including labor
Skill Level – Easy. Changing brake pads is a fairly simple maintenance procedure that requires no special tools.

Brake pads are the simplest way to improve your trucks braking performance. Most people on the forums find the stock pads and rotors adequate, but you can stop more quickly with more aggressive pads. The aftermarket option for brake pads are endless. Some pads offer less brake dust, some offer more friction, and others are designed specifically for consistient, heavy duty trucking. The fact that they're relatively cheap too makes a new set of pads a no brainer.

Brake Fluid

Motorcraft Dot-3 Brake Fluid

DIY Cost – $5-20
Professional Cost – $125-140
Skill Level – Medium. Bleeding your brakes is an involved process, and will require help. Also brake fluid is caustic, so take care to wear gloves if doing this yourself.

Over time, brake fluid will accumulate moisture from the air. The result is a lower boiling point and less effective braking. Simply bleeding the brakes and refilling the reservoir with DOT-3 brake fluid might give you a better pedal feel if it's been lacking recently.

Best Dot-3 fluid - Ford-trucks.com

Pro Tip

You might not ever need to change your brake fluid regularly, but you probably should if you live in a humid climate. One way of getting around this is with a metal brake fluid reservoir. The metal won't let water into your braking system and it'll look pretty cool in your engine bay.

Stage 2 - Next level

Stainless Steel brake lines

Stainless Steel Brake Lines

DIY Cost – $45-80
Professional Cost – $205-$240 including labor
Skill Level – Medium. replacing your stainless steel brake lines require you to bleed your brakes. Installing the lines themselves is a straightforward task.

Exchanging your rubber brake lines for ones made of stainless steel will provide a huge improvement in brake feel. The stock rubber brake lines expand slightly under pressure, which results in the stock pedal resistance. Older rubber will flex more, meaning that your braking feel will degrade over the years. Stainless steel won't flex or absorb moisture ever.

Pro Tip

If you're planning on lifting your truck, you should also plan to upgrade your brake lines at the same time. It's a simple install, and it'll be easier with all the suspension out of the way. Also, you'll need extended brake lines anyway if you're lifting your truck over 4". Most lift kits that size come with stainless steel brake lines for that reason.

Rotors

Stoptech Rotors

DIY Cost – $50-250 per rotor
Professional Cost – $210-410 including labor
Skill Level – State the difficult of installing this part/upgrade with a sentence explaining why it deserves that grade.

If you tow frequently or live in a hilly area, you might've experienced brake fade as the pads and rotors heat up. Upgrading to a larger rotor will help with this, as a larger surface area will hold a release heat more quickly. A larger braking surface will also increase your stopping power at the cost of added weight.

Stage 3 - Track Brakes

Big Brake Kits

Stoptech Big Brake Kit

DIY Cost – $500-$4500
Professional Cost – $740-4740
Skill Level – Difficult. This is a combination of all the other brake upgrades. Several free hours and a helper are necessary.

So, you want the best, biggest, brakes you can get. If cost is no object, then a big brake kit from the likes of Brembo or Wilwood is the way to go. These kits will generally include new calipers with upgraded pistons, larger rotors, stainless steel brake lines, and high-performance pads. If you want the absolute best in stopping distances, or if you just want to look cool, this is the way to go.

Pro Tip

If you're really looking to improve your braking performance, you need to look at your tires as well. A vehicle can only use the traction it's tires give to stop, go, and turn. Shrink your tire size and swap out your rubber for something sticky if you really want to stop on a dime.

Caliper Upgrades

Wilwood Brake Caliper

DIY Cost – $100-$1100 per pair
Professional Cost – $180-1180 including installation
Skill Level – Medium. Swapping calipers is fairly straightforward, but you'll have to bleed your brakes afterward.

Upgrading your calipers to a model with more pistons will increase your braking force. Performance cars generally have large calipers with several pistons because of the high speeds nature of their braking. That extra stopping force comes in handy when towing a large trailer, or stopping four sets of 37" wheels.

The more pistons a caliper has, the stronger the braking force will be.

Special Stage - Street Appeal

Nothing is more of a turnoff than to have great looking rims backed by ugly brakes. Manufactures have improved looks dramatically with attractive calipers or caliper cover paint colors, component materials, and disk slot or hole rotor patterns. This offers choices to further enhance your vehicle’s appeal.

Caliper Covers

MGP Caliper Covers

DIY Cost – $200-220
Professional Cost – None, just do it yourself
Skill Level – Easy. A wrench is the only required tool

New calipers increase stopping capability while enhancing looks by replacing ugly, factory components that often rust with colorful versions that have heat resistant paint. Some designs even offer better cleaning for keeping debris out of the brake surface. Most brake upgrades are provided as kits. There are also brake caliper covers that you can buy for improving the looks of your vehicle.

Slotted, Drilled and Dimpled Rotors

Slotted, Drilled and Slotted, and Drilled Rotors

DIY Cost – $50-250 per rotor
Professional Cost – $210-410 including labor
Skill Level – State the difficult of installing this part/upgrade with a sentence explaining why it deserves that grade.

Slotted and drilled rotors and dimpled rotors are often touted as having superior stopping capabilities, but the evidence for that is weak. Slotted rotors will provide a little extra bite when you hit the brakes. "Drilled" rotors should At worst, these rotors can crack. Punching holes in a rotor can create stress points that can lead to a catastrophic failure.

On the plus side, self-destructing slotted rotors are uncommon. If you're not putting your brakes through severe use and heat cycles, you'll likely be fine. Sticking with a good quality rotor manufacturer (like Brembo, Willwood, or Stoptech) is an even safer bet.

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